/ Adventure Travel
adventure — By Vawn on February 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm
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Tips for travel to hot spots

So you’ve booked a flight to Thailand, and now you’re hearing news reports about protests in Bangkok. What do you do?

When traveling to destinations where political or social unrest may occur, it doesn’t mean you have to cancel your trip (or spend the entire time holed up in your hotel room). I’ve traveled to China during SARS (I reasoned that I was coming from Toronto), to Nepal during Maoist uprisings and to Thailand last year during protests in Bangkok. I don’t consider myself a risk-taker – I don’t plan on hanging out in the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan any time soon.

But I do my research. If events are isolated to a particular region, city or locale, I avoid that area. Recognize, however, that even an isolated incident can cause delays and inconveniences (a bus route might be changed, for example, or a flight delayed).

I don’t want to downplay these events – only to put them in context. While protests were going on in Bangkok last March, for example, there was also a “bachelor” style reality show being promoted at Siam Square to a mob of a different kind – hundreds of screaming teenage girls.

Check out government travel advice and warnings – not just from your country of origin, but also from other governments so you can get several viewpoints. Here are a few worth checking out: Canada, U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

It’s also worth reading the country’s national newspapers online (say, the Bangkok Post if you’re traveling to Thailand). And check out traveler chat rooms and forums, such as Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, if you want the latest scoop from travelers or ex-pats on the ground.

What I find perhaps most useful is checking to see if reputable adventure travel companies or tour operators are still running trips in that particular country or region. If, say, GAP Adventures or Intrepid Travel trips are running, it gives me some assurance that it’s okay to travel. And, if you’re still nervous about venturing out on your own to a potential hot spot, you could always consider going with an adventure travel company. You can also register with your government’s foreign affairs department before you leave home.

If you’re already in a hot spot when an incident occurs, contact your embassy – and talk to the locals. Several years ago I was in the Indian Himalayas when Pakistan threatened to send a cruise missile into India. Foreigners fled in droves, to the point where it was near impossible to get a flight out of Delhi for weeks. But the locals were unruffled – they told me this sort of thing happens on a regular basis. I decided to stay.

Ultimately, it’s a personal decision, but hopefully these tools can help you make an informed decision, rather than one based on fear.

Photo Credit: interactimages @ Flickr

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